June 07, 2005

Seeking the Adrenalin-Junkie Tourist

Sidney Morning Herald:

It was once called the Venice of the East and with imagination you can still see why: boats skim across lagoons, golden domes glint in sunshine, coffee shops abound in the old quarter.

Stroll down the corniche at sunset and you can stop for a kebab and ice-cream, smoke a hubble-bubble, play chess and listen to the water lapping below. And then, if you are a westerner, you can check you have not been followed, adjust your disguise, and signal to your bodyguard that you want to return to the hotel.

Basra declared itself open to foreign visitors this week but instructed them to be vigilant, dress like locals and hire armed escorts. "Then there is a 70 to 80 per cent chance you will be OK," beamed Abdul Razuqi, the head of the tourism office in Iraq's second city.

Those odds are set to be tested if Iraqi Airways succeeds in running regular commercial flights between Basra and Heathrow, the first direct civilian air link between Iraq and the west. The airline plans to seek a slot at Heathrow within two months.

To accommodate the adrenalin-tourist, repairs to the gutted five-star Basra Sheraton are scheduled to commence this month. Tour planners suggest that visitors dye their hair and wear traditional robes to look like mid-Easterners.

With the ever-present threats of kidnapping and assassination, Basra is surely a thrilling destination, however, tourists are cautioned that they will find the city's "museums gutted, theatres shut, streets reeking with rubbish and sewage and waterways littered with capsized vessels, including Saddam Hussein's yacht."

I think I'll pass. It sounds too much like Detroit.

Companion post and pic at Interested-Participant.

Tipped by Ozguru.

By at 11:34 PM | Comments |